Monday, July 31, 2017

The Plus Factors of Life. Yes, you will live long.

Dr Abe V Rotor  
Living with Nature - School on Blog

The Pond - A Place of Happy Thoughts, in acrylic AVRotor
When the sun rises, be there and catch its rays, pristine, golden piercing the fog and mist, turning dewdrops into diamonds cascading to the ground, vanishing into the air, birds chirping  to herald the day - you will live long;

When the sun sets, it is but the parting of day, no tears no regrets, it goes to its bed on the horizon,  and soon, you too shall find rest in comfort and thanksgiving, taking away the rigors of the day - you will live long;


When tired muscles and nerves, before they snag and pull you down, stop and let nature take over, you have a lot of reserve you don't only know - breath deep, relax and dream of the things you love - you will live long;


When in doubt and indecisive, cautious and anxious, these you must respect, they are within your barometer telling you to find the best path to take - and, if ever the risk is well deserve take the less trodden with pride - you will live long;


When lost in the woods or in the concrete jungle, in eerie shadows among trees or the blinding neon lights, stop but briefly for composure, but never stop, your home is just there waiting for you - you will live long;      


When feeling sick you are sick, when angry you are angry, when lonely you are lonely; when happy you are happy, you are the master and captain of your life, steer your ship well having set its course - you will live long; 


When the seasons are changing fast, you must be in love with your work, your life and family, your friends and organization - they make things easy for you, as you make things easy for them too, rejoice, it's a great life - you will live long;  


When your pulse is racing with your heartbeat, temperature sending blood to your head, eyes blurred by tears and anger, your gait and stride now heavy and disturbing, your smiles and laughter leaving dry furrows, take a break, a long break - you will live long;


When sick doctors affirm, don't give up, the good hormones will drive the bad ones away, stem cells in your bone marrow will double up, metabolism slows down, enhance these natural processes, be happy - you will live long;

When you are yourself and not somebody else, when models rise to challenge you, when idealism and reality meet at the hallowed ground of humanity, where goodness prevails, be more than a witness, you have your own role to play - you will live long;

When life advances past your prime, look to the golden years, the best of life yet, believe in wisdom distilled from knowledge, in a book you wrote as your living epitaph, for having bore or sired children the meaning of immortality - you will live long;

When the Angelus bell rings and you hear it not a peal but sweet call, when all around you gather your family and friends, those you found joy in helping - the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the imprisoned, the lonely and abandoned - you will live long, and forever live. ~ 

The Irreversibility of Domestication

Dr Abe V Rotor
Part 1: The Irreversibility of Domesticating Wildlife
A pair of exotic parrots in captivity
Once domesticated, plants and animals remain under the custody of man, modifying them, pampering them in the process, that without man they are utterly, some completely, helpless. Domestication is indeed an irreversible process.



There are very few wild horses now, there are no original wild buffaloes anymore on the prairies of North America, yaks and reindeer in the cold north; chickens cannot go back to their being self-supporting, so with pigs, rabbits, cattle, goats, sheep.
More so with fancy pets. They haven't been only severed from their former kin, they have been modified in ways humans wanted them to be - not what Nature make of them to insure their adaptation and survival as individuals, more so as species. Birds are bred for fancy, like those with twisted wings and false breast feather and tails, dogs bred for shows and fashion. Cats have forgotten how to hunt, they have become naive and their tail has virtually of no function anymore. Plants with mosaic patterns in their leaves are either genetic or caused by virus; we are not even aware. Flowers with layered multicolored petals are no longer useful for pollination. These and many more, have very little chance of integration into their natural populations.



In most instances, man has "purified' the genes useful to create the traits he wanted, in the process unwittingly eliminating the "undesirable" genes. Who are we to decide which genes are desirable or not? How sure are we that when we preserve or enhance desirable genes we are not on the other hand also creating undesirable effects - which may even have worse consequences?



Then there are animals in the wild, which in the guise of conservation, now live under the roof of our dwellings, in zoos and parks - tiger, panda, boa, lemur, macaque, tarantula, iguana, and the like that make us think they are unique pets. We don't only know that our good intention has virtually doomed these animals, because - without man - they can no longer return to live in the wild which is their true habitat. We have caused them to be orphans of the ecosystem.
Box turtle laying eggs in a garden pond.
Part 2 - The Irreversibility of Domestication: The Aquarium
Pako fish in home aquarium
Pets, pets, pets. Only humans make pets. It is an expression of rationality, demonstrating custodianship of God's creation, extension of familial instinct, and a means of silencing frayed nerves, and exit of pent up emotion and outburst of energy. Above all pets share the burden of living, provide companionship, and reciprocated love in many ways. But what is the implication of domestication of living things to ecology, and to the living world as a whole?
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The aquarium is a minuscule of a pond; the pond, the minuscule of the lake or ocean.
The home aquarium is a representation of God's vast creation - 78 percent of the surface of the earth covered with water, water interconnecting all oceans and seas from pole to pole, across the equator and meeting the great rivers at the bays and estuaries.

Here is an experiment I conducted at home with a home aquarium. I reared two oscars and two pako fish, a relative of the notorious Piranha, in our long idle aquarium that has volume of some 100 gallons. It is huge for four small fishes. But that's freedom, I thought, thinking of their natural habitat. The freer the fishes are, the more they find food and mate, and easier to adjust to changing conditions.

Aquariums are like a stage where drama is shown - the colors, movements, behaviors of the characters; their interaction within and imagined scenery at the other side of the glass. To us viewers we see but the fish; to the fish they see us and all around us. In fact the whole landscape is part of the fish's dwelling, giving them a false sense of freedom.

Luckier are the fish though than convicts behind bars, or within thick walls with just a peep window. And while the convict is closed in, we wish our fish in the aquarium to "open up" by coming close to the glass wall so that we can communicate with them and they communicate with us.

The oscars died and left the pako to occupy the whole aquarium. Soon they grew big, so big that they had to be transferred to a garden pond. They did not last long. They did not get adapted to open condition. Acid rain, low dissolved oxygen level, among other factors were too much for them to bear.

In another aquarium I placed six paco fingerlings occupied by a lone oscar three times the size of the pako. They grew fast and overtook the lone Oscar. It too, died. And the pako, even if they had apparently adjusted, succumb to the long hot summer. Like birds, fish live in groups. They have their niche, they travel, even migrate, seeking the best conditions favorable to them. Thus the saying, "Birds of the same feather flock together." So with fish, fish of the same kind make a school.

There are of course interactions between and among flocks or schools in the natural environment - but not in an artificial one. In fact, one test of an ecosystem's balance and integrity is when the food web that comprises it has attained self-regulation and control, and what scientists call homeostasis which means dynamic stability for a period of time.

Take the coral reef, for instance. It is a model of symbiotic relationship of different organisms. Coelenterates (corals) and algae live together, so with seaweeds and a host of feeders and symbionts; sea grass and echinoderms (starfish and sea urchin) with benthic (bottom) dwellers, and pelagic (free swimming) fish, among many other organisms, including those unseen by the naked eye - they comprise the coral reef, the most beautiful underwater scenery we attempt to recreate in the laboratory or in our sala with an aquarium.
Red corals, acrylic AVR
I know of one built by a former student of mine at UST. It simulates the coral reef. There are even sea anemones that react to light and to touch to the delight of viewers. There are mollusks, both with shells and naked like the octopus. Yes, the octopus, known for being canny we interpret as intelligence, by changing colors and patterns with their environment, their eyes closest in appearance to the eyes of humans in shape and expression(?).

But octopuses are no easy aquarium pets. I can attest to that.

In San Fernando, La Union, where I was assigned in government service for two years, I caught a small octopus which I intended to make as pet. It was a pet all right while you are watching it. Once you turn your back, it creeps out of the aquarium in an attempt to escape. It has indeed a keen sense of smell of the sea - it crept always to the west - the South China Sea where I was living nearby. My octopus deserved freedom. I gave in with a sigh, gaining a lesson in biology, and put it back to sea.

I wonder how many organisms presently under the care of man will not get acclimatized once they are transferred to the wild, which is their native home. This is the irony of domestication.

Part 3: Domestication and spread of pest and disease
Scientists all over the world were puzzled at the source of SARS, until a Chinese scientist found out that the pathogen is carried by animals that have come to live with us, the civet cat principally. As a rule, get rid of the biological agent first before treating the victim, so a general campaign was launched. Similarly the pandemic Swine Flu caused by the coded virus H1N1 had to be contained firstly by isolating humans positive of the pathogen and drastically eliminating the infected animals.

Domestication brought dangers to humans as well as damage to his properties. It is not only the plant or animal per se, that is involved but the accompanying agent as in these examples.
  • Rabies in dogs
  • Ebola from primates and monkeys
  • Golden kuhol or snail attacking rice
  • Black bug of rice
  • Tungro disease of rice
  • Bubonic plague carried by flea that lives in rats
  • Leaf gall in santol caused by mites
  • Gall of dapdap or Erythrina caused by a wasp
No organism is free of certain pests and diseases. And no organism is completely immune to those that exist in the place where it is introduced. Some time, somehow it becomes susceptible by giving way to the causal organisms that is capable of biological specialization which is part of adaptation and key to evolution.
To be continued. 

Plants of Guimaras Island

Make Me a Song in Nature's Garden 
Dr Abe V Rotor
Make me a song, each flower a tune, each tune a melody,
in the stillness of the sea in calm or laughter in its tide;
make me a song among the flowers that bring in the rainbow,
the cadence of the rising sun, the flutter of the butterfly, 
make me a song in the shadows of the mangrove, its mirror
of heaven, dropping confetti and making ripples now and then,
make me a song of the mists that gather into dewdrops,
of clouds coming down as shower or fog that shrouds like veil
the landscape, in gentle transformation of another day - 
and another, ad infinitum in the march of time - 
and I, I am but a passerby, yet brevity is the essence of all.
 
Red kalachuchi (Plumera rubra)
 

Corazon de Maria (Caladium bicolor), Fancy caladium (Caladium humboltii) 
 Euphorbia (Euphorbia splendens); Pandakaking tsina (Ervatamia divaricata)
 
 Water plant (Philodendron hastatum);  Tiger hemp (Sanziviera zeylanica)
  
 Fire tree (Delonix regia)
 
Mayana (Coleus blumei); Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii)
 
Doña Trining (white) - Mussaenda philippica; 
Doña Aurora (Mussaenda philippica var aurorarae)
 
 Lantana (Lantana camara)
Yellow  gummamela (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis); Red gummamela (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)
 Variegated gummamela (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis); Gummamela (Hibiscus schizopetalus)
Lobsterclaw (Heliconia acuminata); Garden asparagus (Asparagus officinales)
 
Anahaw (Livistonia acuminata); Powderpuff lily (Haemanthus multiflorus)
Beach hymenocallis (Hymenocallis litoralis) / Spider lily (Crinum asiaticum)
Croton (Codiaeum variegatum)
 
Ripe fruits of pandakaki (Tabernamontana pandakaki)
Close up of intertwined roots and vines of liana.

Pomposity of colors - Nature's tool for survival

"... you must court the butterfly and the bee without delay ... in the act of make believe."
Dr Abe V Rotor 
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Butterfly plant, what a coincidence 
in form and structure, and color;
I'd rather say,  a case of mimicry,
mutual protection, a favor of both.   
Angel's trumpet, flimsy sinister, heralding 
not of victory but defeat;
Narcotics its essence, abuse its courtship,
to the unwary on a dark street.   
Balibago - white in the morning pink after;
your secret of a short lived;
you must court the sun and bee without delay,
in the act of make believe.
Mickey mouse the male, Minnie mouse the female,
both flowers born on one plant;
If ever Disney got the idea from this plant, he's right,
mystery is what people want.  
Begonia, frail and dainty, and easy to wilt
 shout your color to the butterfly and bee,
else your flowers like spinsters fade away
sad, lonely though colorful and free. 
Anthurium, sculpted in wax by your look,
inanimate it seems in the plant world;
Are you the proud Icarus resurrected 
whose wings melted in the sun as told?
Caladium - but you are not a flower and far from one;
yet you are an apple to the eye of the beholder;
whatever perceptions you create to your pollinators, 
count me as one, your ardent gardener. ~

Practical Household Management Tips

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog

This is a continuing list of practical household management tips, which can be followed easily, and shared with the members of the family, friends, in the school and community. Learn and perfect each tip through demonstration. Illustrate or photograph each tip. Compile into a manual.

1. Cut spent toothpaste tube and glean on remaining content. You can have as much as five brushing. Use remaining paste as hand-wash to remove grease and fishy odor.

2. Don't dispose used cooking oil in sink. It reacts with detergent and solidifies like soap - the same process called saponification, blocking drainage canal and sewer.

3. Rice weevil can be controlled by placing crushed bulb of garlic in the stored rice. Loosely wrap garlic with cloth or paper. Cover the box. In a day or two, the weevils succumb to the garlic odor. Others simply escape.

4. Make your own hand wash detergent. Scrape soap with knife, dissolve in water. Presto! You can have all the hand wash you need. Use your formula to refill empty dispensers. Label with the soap you used and the dilution you made. Avoid commercial concentrated brands - they are too strong, and dangerous to children.

5. Protect tip of pencil with rolled paper. This serves as cap to extend the life of the pencil, and prevent accident. Use gloss, colored paper - the kind used as promo leaflets. Instead of refusing, or throwing it away, you can make a beautiful pencil cap. You can also roll it as extender when the pencil becomes too short, thus maximizing its use.

6. Garden pots from PET bottles (1- to 2-li). It’s free, whereas commercial garden pots are expensive. Cut at midsection with a sharp knife or blade; puncture three equidistant holes on the side, an inch from the base, not at the bottom. This is to keep reserve water for the plant. Plant one kind per pot: oregano, alugbati, kamote, kangkong, ginger, onion, garlic, mustard, pechay, and the like. Scrape some topsoil for your planting medium. There’s no need of fertilizer and pesticide. Keep a pot or two of growing garlic or onion, also ginger; they are insect repellants.

7. Sugar solution extends the life of cut flowers.
In horticulture, they call this pulsing, a technique of providing nourishment and extending the shelf life of cut flowers. This technique lengthens vase life twice as much. It allows buds to open and postpones stem collapse, while it enhances freshness of the opened flowers.

8. Pulsing for roses is done by immersing the stem ends for one to three hours in 10% sugar solution, and for gladiolus 12 to 24 hours in 20% sugar solution. Daisies, carnation, chrysanthemums, and the like are better handled if harvested and transported in their immature stage, then opened by pulsing. It is best to cut the stem at an angle, dipped 6 to 12 hours in 10% sugar solution compounded with 200 ppm of 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate, 100 ppm citric acid. Best results are obtained at cool temperature and low relative humidity.

9. Press the base of the jaw joint to relieve toothache. There’s a saying that when your tooth aches, there’s nothing you can do about it except to take painkiller. Mabuti pa ang sakit ng tiyan. At least for stomach ache you can manage to find a comfortable position, or press the painful part to secure relief.

But here is a simple remedy Dr. Vanda Hernandez, school dentist of St. Paul University QC, demonstrated which I found to be effective. There is a mass of nerve cells called Gasserian ganglion that connects the nerves of the gums and teeth, and their surroundings. Now this is how the simple remedy works. Open your mouth wide, feel where the joint of the jaw is located. Now close your mouth and press this nerve center with the finger until you obtain relief. Do this along the side of the affected tooth. Repeat until pain subsides. Once you have practiced the technique, you can do it discreetly even with people around when the need arises.

10. Smoke therapy (suob) – old folks’ aroma therapy.
Basang, my auntie who took care of me when I was a child, was sick and dying. Doctor Catalino, our rural physician, gave her injection but her condition did not improve, and now she was in a pit of convulsion. As a last ditch Cousin Bistra who knew something about herbal cure gathered leaves of kamias (Averrhoa balimbi) and roasted it on charcoal until a characteristic aroma began to fill the room. Fanning it over the patient face, with prayers chanted, Basang began to calm down, the color of her skin improved, and soon fell into deep sleep.

Ms. Precila Delima who is taking her doctorate in biology in UST related in class a practice among the Ibanag of Cagayan of using suob by mothers who have just given birth. Garlic and shallot onion (sibuyas tagalog) are roasted on charcoal, and packed with cloth. While still warm the patient sits on the pack for several minutes, with her whole body covered with blanket. She perspires profusely, eliminating wastes and toxins from her body. The whole procedure is closely attended to by the “olds” in the family with the direction of the village manghihilot or homegrown midwife (comadrona or partera Ilk.). Old folks believe that this practice is important because it drives out evil spirits or wards them off in order to prepare the way the mother faces the crucial responsibility of motherhood – after child bearing follows the bigger task - child rearing.

11. If the father or mother leaves the house, place the clothes he or she last worn beside the sleeping child so that he goes into deep sleep. This is pheromones in action. Pheromones are chemical signals for bonding in the animal world, and among humans. Like the queen bee that keeps its colony intact through pheromones, so we are attracted by a similar odor, although of a less specific one. People are compatible through smell. Pheromones are left in clothes and other belongings, so that a baby may remain fast asleep as if he were in his mother’s or father’s arms.

Go for fresh food, the least processed, the healthier and cheaper. Do it at home.

Home gardening for good health and nutrition - and income, too.

12. Don’t eat between meals, old folks advise.
Coffee break is a corporate invention, and snacks are the first version of fast food, thanks to capitalism. So why take heed of the old advice?

Well, let’s look at it this way. Our old folks take heavy meals, mainly rice or corn, depending on the region they live, and they do not eat anything in between meals. Yet they work for long hours, and are healthy. How is that?

Starch in cereals is polysaccharide, which means that it has to be broken down into simple sugar before it is “burned” by the body to release energy. Starch has to be hydrolyzed with the aid of enzyme (amylase) found in our digestive system. Glucose, the ultimate product is broken down through oxidation (respiration), providing the needed energy for various body functions. This transformation takes hours, releasing energy throughout the process, and by the time the fuel is exhausted, it is time for the next meal. This is a simple test. Have you experienced having a grain of rice unknowingly tucked between the gums and teeth? After an hour of so, the grain taste sweet. It means that the grain is undergoing hydrolysis – from starch to sugar.


13. White sugar (sucrose), on the other hand is directly burned, after it has been split into two monosaccharides. That is why too much white sugar leads to high blood sugar – if we do not burn it – and may in the long run become the cause of diabetes.

14. Broil, don't fry. It's healthier and more economical.
This eating regimen of old folks may apply to manual workers, principally in the field. Today we find this virtually impossible to follow. First, we need a lot of energy, mainly for the brain, and secondly, we are already accustomed to having snacks. In fact many of us never stop eating. A foreigner once commented, “Filipinos are always eating.” What with all the advertisements - from TV commercials to giant billboards - and the proliferation of food carts and stores. ~

Practical Hydroponics: A Kitchen Garden

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog [avrotor.blogspot.com]

Three-week old kitchen garden

You can grow kamote or sweet potato tops in the kitchen. It also serves as a greenery of sort on the window sill.

Fill to three-fourth a convenient glass jar with tap water. Place a healthy tuber on the mouth of the jar. To keep it steady, stick three pieces of toothpick like a tripod. Add water daily as roots develop. Be sure to replace water weekly to prevent mosquitoes from breeding in the jar.


In a week's time or two you can start harvesting. At first allow the tops to extend. Just clip the leaves you need in your cooking. Rotate the position of the tuber towards the source of light, so that you will have more shoots, and greener and bigger leaves.


Now you have a dish garden for a whole month or longer. You can grow fresh onion leaves with this technique. Try it on garlic.


You see, this is simple hydroponics - soil-less gardening. It is introduction to the science of hydroponics and aeroponics. For school childre, why don't you try this as your project?




Read more about hydroponics and aeroponics. Happy dish gardening!

* In observance of World Food Day October 16, 2015. 
Dedicated to the late Dr. Fernando de Peralta, my professor in botany: